New airlift and new hotel programs are garnering attention in Mexico. Michael Schmeltzer, president of American Airlines Vacations tells Travel Agent that new product is the result of increased demand.
“We’ve announced new lift to Cancun. We’ll be flying weekly nonstop from Raleigh-Durham, Pittsburg, Nashville and Kansas City. Of course, we have a lot of connectivity through our hubs of Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dallas and Phoenix. But, there’s demand for nonstop access, ” said Schmeltzer.
Schmeltzer has presided over the merger of US Airways and American Airlines Vacations. He emphasizes that keeping the travel agent community engaged is a top priority for 2016.
“We want to be known for paying bulk air commission 100 percent of the time. We’ve also recently completed lots of site updates on AAVacations.com. Agents told us some of the changes they’d like to see, and we responded to that. We had some great dialog with them during the nine shows we did last year. Now agents will find the site is much simpler. It’s easier to make payments and choose hotels,” he said.
On the topic of hotels, Schmeltzer says that AAV will keep expanding offerings.
“We’re working closely with brands such as AMResorts, which has the new Breathless brand. There’s not that many of them yet, but it’s important to understand what that lifestyle brand is all about. I think a trend is to see further segmentation within brands. Different companies are deciding whether they want to have a completely separate adults-only brand or simply an adults-only section within a property. We’re looking at boutique properties as well. But obviously, the biggest growth in Mexico comes from all inclusives. That product constantly evolves,” said Schmeltzer.
One brand particularly known for its evolving product is Velas Resorts. In Puerto Vallarta, Velas Vallarta has introduced a seasonal pop-up restaurant called Alejandra.
“The 120-seat restaurant features indoor and outdoor dining overlooking a lush garden courtyard,” the brand’s P.R. representative Megan Sterritt tells Travel Agent.
Through April, Alejandra will offer gourmet Mexican and farm-to-table specialties. Sample menu items include baked duck breast with a pumpkin seed pipián sauce and a short rib braised with red wine and chocolate. Diners can also sample a signature Caramel Candy desert, made with sweet burnt milk caramel and bitter chocolate, among other ingredients.
Also in Puerto Vallarta, the adults-only Casa Velas has reinstated its weekly dinners with the chef program. Executive Chef Eliseo Ibarra prepares a dinner for 18 guests, served poolside (or in the botanical garden) with paired wines. The dinner is part of the hotel’s nightly interactive food and beverage experience.
All activities are complimentary. They include wine and cheese tasting, Cuban cigar rollers, margarita and martini tastings and even a casino night with “winnings” redeemable in the boutique.
For the 13- to 18-year-old crowd, a new Teens Club is designed to offer a mini vacation. The $300,000 facility is located at the AAA Five-Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Club touches include an elaborate game room and a Chill Out zone stocked with soft drinks and deli snacks.